Kurodake - Reviews

wicked above the ski lift

ziggy
29/01/2017
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Month Visited:
    January
Rode here in Jan. The chair lift was closed so we skinned up to pretty much the alpine almost to the top. Snow was a little crusty due to low temps. But the alpine is easy to access with skins or snow shoes. Having the chair lift open and skinning to the top about 1 hour, this place was be wicked. No crowds at all other then viewers. The so called track down to the bottom is a little sketchy. If you are a beginner I would not recommend it.

Perfect Ingredients for a Powder Hound Destination

POWDERHOUNDS.COM
17/03/2016
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    February
Love a face shot Powder, powder, powder More powder Looking up to the peak
With just a handful of cars in the car park, fresh snow, a guide, and the green light that the Kurodake Ropeway was operating, we knew we were in for a treat! We started with a run under the ropeway, which was superb – freshies and tightish steep trees the whole way. We’d heard that snow conditions can sometimes be horrid in this area, but we scored it pretty well. Other than an ice layer under the pow in a couple of chutes, the powder was delightful.

We did another ropeway run later in the day and our guide showed us more fresh goods. We spoke to a handful of others who said the ropeway lines they’d skied were tracked – we were thankful to have a great guide from Journey Into Japan!

We also enjoyed the terrain above the chair lift. “Enjoy” would actually be an understatement – the powder was absolutely fabulous!

At the end of the day, we did a run to skiers right of the chair lift and there were fresh tracks everywhere. We guessed that most people were just chasing the steeper terrain, but it was plenty of fun in that area.

We stayed in a simple pension in Sounkyo. Our room was fine but outside of our room, the place was like an icebox and jaunts to the shared bathroom were very cold.

There were many many bus loads of tourists in Sounkyo to see the ice festival. The ice festival was OK, but after you’ve seen the Asahikawa or Sapporo snow festival, it really doesn’t quite compare.

For more of our thoughts on the pros and cons of Kurodake, see the overview page. Also see our Japan ski resort ratings to see how we rate Kurodake versus other ski areas.

Kurodake

Method
08/04/2011
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
Kurodake is quite an odd mountain. It's really a summer place actually for hiking and sightseeing, there are an absolute plethora of hotels in the village (Sounkyo), none of which really had any guests when we were there (Late Jan '11). It really is a ghost town in winter, in fact it's virtually deserted. There is absolutely no nightlife and we struggled to find a restaurant that was open. This means you WILL get some (make that a lot of) untracked powder, but (read on)...

I certainly frothed at the statement, "steepest lifted terrain in Japan" and driving into Sounkyo the steepness of the terrain below the cable car reminded of Jackson Hole, to give you an idea of its pitch.

I think the number of people on the hill the day we were there numbered in the single digits, including our group of 5.

As the rundown mentions, Kurodake is basically 3 different mountains. I'll try not to repeat what is said there:

1. From the cable car down to Sounkyo village is super steep (double black diamond) with very tight trees in places, it's certainly not unmanageable and there are a few places where you can put the hammer down, but I wouldn't revisit Kurodake to do this run, not because it's too steep mainly that it's too tightly wooded. We only took the one route down, there didn't appear to be many other options and given the pitch, it would also be very easy to get cliffed out if you go the wrong way.

2. Powder bowl served by chairlift above the cable car. This is a really mellow powder bowl, in fact it's pretty flat, with really wide tree spacing (as opposed to under the cable car where they are really tight). Just check to see if it's operating (difficult if you don't speak Japanese), I don't think they open it until March and I wouldn't go back unless it was operating, only to save hiking to the upper bowl, which is where the goods are at. It wasn't open when we went at the end of January and I can tell you that laying a fresh bootpack in waist deep powder looking up at a perfectly serviceable lift sucks balls.

3. Terrain above the chairlift. This is why I would go back. We hiked up above the chairlift, but not to the peak as it was a typical Hokkaido winter day snowing its titties off, limited visibility and ridiculously cold (-20C), so it wouldn't have been nice above the treeline. We didn't get high enough to find out, but I believe there are a couple of gnarly traverses towards the top. You really want reasonable vis for this.

At the end of the day you can take the cable car back down to Sounkyo if the thought of a double black diamond run thru tight trees after a day of laying bootpack has tired you out.

Take food up the hill with you if you are hiking as the cafe at the top of the cable car was closed when we were there, although I guess it would be open when the upper chairlift is going.

The other thing I have been hinting at, subtly, is that this is really the place for a guide if the vis is in any way limiting and even then if you are not an experienced backcountry skier/boarder it's a great idea. In bad vis from the top bowl it would be easy to take the wrong gully and not end up back at the cable car and then you are looking at getting cliffed out with a 100 or 200 meter drop. Very nasty. It's very easy to do in bad vis as the bowl is quite big and there weren't many landmarks to keep your bearings apart from your skin track and/or bootpack.

It also goes without saying you need to be carrying beacons, probes and shovels and know how to use them. The terrain around the chairlift lift is very mellow and more than likely not steep enough to slide although above the chairlift it gets steeper. Like most of Hokkaido, the snowpack is usually (I say USUALLY) quite stable. We did some snow stability tests in the upper bowl and found it very stable (disclaimer: on the day we were there!). The snow was certainly amazing, typical Hokkaido dry powder you can't cup in your hand.

Overall, I would go back, but only if the upper chair was operating and only on a day with good vis above the treeline so I could get to the peak. If you aren't a confident backcountry snowboarder don't bother and certainly don't take your girlfriend here (unless she rips). Otherwise, if you don't mind a little bit of walking, get that splitboard out and tear up an awesome bowl, you will have it almost all to yourself.

It's quite out of the way too, probably a good hour and bit from Asahikawa and maybe 2-3 hrs from Furano.